Entertainment Music

Thursday 21 November 2019

To coin an alternate musical phase...

Spotify co-founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon
Spotify co-founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon
Bear Hands
Niall Byrne

Despite the fact that I'm not a musician myself, I spend an inordinate amount of time considering how people can actually get paid for the music they make. It's fascinating to consider what digital downloads, Spotify streams, YouTube views, crowdfunding campaigns and viral videos can do for the artists and the music industry. You couldn’t have a playlist centred around this theme without sticking this one up on top.

Revenues in the music industry have subsided overall in recent years. They ain't what they once were. The golden age of printing physical CDs and putting exorbitant profit on the cost price are gone. As Mick Jagger sagely told the BBC a few years back: "If you look at the history of recorded music from 1900 to now, there was a 25-year period where artists did very well, but the rest of the time they didn't."

A few years ago I was pretty enthusiastic about Flattr, a social micropayments system that put a monetary value on you clicking like or retweeting a tweet, therefore bringing potential earnings to the content creators. Yet Flattr hasn't really hit the critical masses. But last week, I heard about something else that got me thinking about how artists could get paid.

Bitcoin is an alternative digital currency that has been adopted by internet users.

It is a decentralised, yet volatile, new way of paying for goods and services. Songcoin is a new currency, based on Bitcoin and the administrators Pimovi are hoping that it could be used as an alternative method of revenue for the music industry.

It's an idea, like Flattr, that has potential. Think of it like a virtual tip jar. Artists can accept Songcoin donations on their social media pages. Pimovi says they will offer discounts for use of Songcoins in music transactions. So if you went to buy a concert ticket, the ticket vendor could offer a discount if a ticket is bought with Songcoin.

It's not a totally crazy idea. Dogecoin was a jokey currency based on the Doge meme but people wanted to get in on the joke so much so that it created demand and now has a $55 million value.

They may not succeed, but Songcoin, Bitcoin and other alternative currencies could be a way of putting value back into music in due time.

New Artist of the Week

Bear Hands

This New York band aren't exactly new. They've been kicking around the internet since 2007, around the time that American bands started calling themselves after creatures much more ferocious than they were. Yes we're talking about you Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, Bear In Heaven and Ireland's entry – Solar Bears.

It can take time for a group to find their feet and gain the requisite experience needed to be a great band but Bear Hands are starting to sound like one. They used to sound like your standard melodic indie-rock band and after they released their debut Burning Bush Supper Club, they supported Passion Pit and MGMT on tour.

Their second album Distraction was released in the States last month (forthcoming here in the summer), and has the sound of modern American college rock all over it.

It's a confident collection of tight indie-pop gems which recalls classic acts like Barenaked Ladies. It also finds them filling the void left by their old classmates MGMT when they shunned pop melodies in favour of psychedelics, and began writing indie-rock songs that people might actually want to hear.


Tracks of the week

Kelis – Jerk Ribs

Not only has Kelis (now a Le Cordon Bleu chef, don't ya know?) got her own cooking show called Saucy And Sweet and a line of condiments, she has a new album on the way on Ninja Tune called Food and featuring titles like Friday Fish Fry and Biscuits 'n' Gravy but there'll be no messing with these tunes if the old-school funk soul of Jerk Ribs is any indication. Kelis is nobody's maitre d'.



The Swedish singer will return in May with her third album I Never Learn, which will be the

final part of her album trilogy. She says it's about "me and the guilt and the shame and the

hurt and the pride and the confusion of being a woman". A song and video featuring a lush

orchestral backing and Lykke's familiar harmonic tones singing about star-crossed lovers was released last week.




Two upcoming artists, Swedish pop male Erik (who has written for Shakira) and American R&B singer Tinashe team up for a perfect synergy of both worlds with some horn-featuring hip-hop production and lyrics about a woman who is like alcohol. Worth the hassle.


The Playlist

Stiff Little Fingers visit Dublin next Thursday, bringing with them the best that political Northern Irish rock ever had to offer. For its size, it's certainly packed quite a musical punch over the years.

Stiff Little Fingers - Alternative Ulster

You couldn’t have a playlist centred around this theme without sticking this one up on top.

The North has come a long way since Jake Burns and Co made this plea – but it still holds up as a punk classic.

2. The Undertone – Teenage Kicks

From punk classic to pop-style staple – John Peel’s favourite song of all time, he gave this song 13 out of 5, and had its lyrics engraved on his headstone. What more can you say?

3. The Divine Comedy – In Pursuit of Happiness

Choosing our favourite Neil Hannon track was quite an ask, but this brims with positivity and optimism.

4. Two Door Cinema Club – Changing of the Seasons

We thought this band might have peaked after their debut, A Tourist History. One album and on EP later, they keep improving – as this single shows.

5. Snow Patol – Spitting Games

This rocking tune is ten years old now but sounds every bit as fresh as when it was released.

6. Duke Special FT Neil Hannon – Our Love Goes Deeper Than This

This tune features the North's favourite dreadlocked crooner, as well as Hannon (Divine Comedy) and Romeo Stodart of the Magic Numbers. Who are from Sheffield. In the North of England, see?

7. ASH – Burn Baby Burn

How do you choose a favourite Ash number? This rocking tune boasts perhaps the finest intro of any pop song composed on this island.

8. Oppenheimer – This is Not a Test

Speaking of great intros, the opening bars of Oppenheimer's self-titled album make for a slow-burning gem. What follows isn't too bad, either.

9. Therapy? – Stop it You’re Killing Me

You can’t endure decades of political turmoil without generating a lot of anger, and much of this is voiced through Therapy’s hardcore sounds.

10. Van Morrison – Moondance

Oh Van the Man, how did we get to track 10 and nearly forget you? This may be an obvious selection, but encapsulates Morrison at his jazzy best.

Follow the Spotify Playlist:


Got an idea for a themed playlist? Email acoughlan@independent.ie

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